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August 25, 2010

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011
Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who authored the California law prohibiting coastal dumping by cruise ships and other oceangoing vessels, praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its announcement today that it has proposed to ban all sewage discharges from large ships in state waters the length of the California coast.

“This is a great day for the California coast, which should never be a dumping ground for oceangoing vessels” said Simitian, whose anti-dumping law petitioned the federal government for EPA authorization. “The ‘No Discharge Zone’ protects our coastal economy, our environment and our public health.”

Senate Bill 771, the Clean Coast Act, authored by Simitian and enacted into law in 2005, prohibits all commercial ships from dumping hazardous waste, sewage sludge, oily bilge water, “gray water” from sinks and showers, and sewage in state waters. Without EPA authorization under the Clean Water Act, however, the provision regarding treated sewage could not take effect.

Cruise ships visit state waters hundreds of times a year and oceangoing cargo ships make thousands of calls. 

“Seven years ago,” said Simitian, “a cruise ship dumped sewage into Monterey Bay and sailed off, its operators glibly remarking that they hadn’t broken any rules. They couldn’t have made it clearer that the rules needed to change.”

As an Assembly Member and a Senator, Simitian has authored statutes, dating back to 2003, to protect the shoreline and state waters, which extend three miles from the coast. In addition to prohibiting dumping of various wastes, legislation authored by Simitian bans onboard incineration, strengthens laws forbidding release of ballast water that could contain invasive species, and requires tighter oil spill prevention and response procedures.

“Senator Simitian is clearly a champion of California’s coastal resources and a leader in protecting our oceans from needless pollution,” said Teri Shore, now program director at Turtle Island Restoration Network in Marin County. “His bills have certainly made the cruise industry and the cargo ships much more accountable,”

“Cruise ships will continue to dump significant amounts of pollution in waters outside California,” said Russell Long, founder of Bluewater Network “but thanks to Sen. Simitian’s series of bills, we will at least prevent them from dumping further in California waters.”
Noting that cruise lines and shipping companies have reported no difficulties in complying with the prohibitions, Simitian said, “Once again, we see that sensible regulations are no obstacle to commerce and recreation. California’s magnificent coast is protected, and it can be enjoyed from ships at sea or the bluffs and beaches on shore.”

Information about the EPA action can be found at:

Summary of Simitian ocean-related legislation.

AB 121, Chapter 488, Statutes of 2003, prohibits owners or operators of large passenger vessels from releasing sewage sludge and oily bilge water into state marine waters and marine sanctuaries under certain conditions.

AB 471, Chapter 706, Statutes of 2004, prohibits cruise ship onboard incineration within three miles of the California coast.

AB 2672, Chapter 764, Statutes of 2004, prohibits a large passenger vessel owner or operator from releasing sewage into state marine waters if certain conditions are met, and requests EPA authorization to prohibit sewage discharges.

SB 771, Chapter 588, Statutes of 2005, enacts the California Clean Coast Act that consolidates various vessel related provisions under the Act, applies the requirements to oceangoing ships with certain conditions and reporting requirements, and makes various other related amendments.

SB 497, Chapter 292, Statutes of 2006, creates standards for the discharge of ballast water, to prevent invasions of non-native species. 

SB 1739, Chapter 566, Statutes of 2008, revises various oil spill prevention and response requirements.

SB 614, Chapter 194, Statutes of 2009, clarifies certain issues relating to oceangoing vessels and extends the January 1, 2010, sunset to January 1, 2014, on certain provisions of the Clean Coast Act.

SB 21, 2009-10 (Pending) requires abandoned fishing gear recovery contact information on commercial fishing licenses and rule brochures, and authorizes the Ocean Protection Council to develop procedures relating to certain abandoned fishing gear recovery procedures.